Hearts Afire: June
by Dee S Knight and Colleen Love, contemporary (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-549-7


Dee S Knight kicks off the June offering of Hearts Afire with The Fireman And The Ice Queen, which is about the romance between Harm Reynolds, the reluctant liaison between the fire department and Woodfield City, and Beth Edwards, the mayor who is known as the Ice Queen. He is still grieving over his late wife, she doesn't think she wants love until it hits her in the face, and so forth.

This one is a familiar story, but it's a pretty readable one all the same. The characters seem like smart types for the unimaginative clichés they are. For someone saddled with the nickname of "Ice Queen", Beth doesn't seem like the icy type at all - the nickname seems more like a concession to the unspoken rule that every career woman in romance novel has to have a nickname signifying her supposed frigid state than a genuine reflection of Beth's personality. Still, she isn't annoying. Harm is also a familiar character, but he doesn't behave in a too self-absorbed manner. If these two characters aren't so, so, so stereotypical, I may even like them.

I have some doubts about the portrayal of firemen here. Their conversations aren't just too sanitized to be real, some of their antics - like joking that so-and-so is jealous and giving each other "fuck you" smile - seem suspiciously like something women would say and do. But I guess we don't want to scare genteel female readers with too much locker room talk.

Colleen Love is next with Inferno. Henri James, our journalist heroine, interviews firefight Cade Logan for a feature. Sparks fly, some trouble is afoot, and I am treated with some hilarious attempts at creative writing.

Henri looked at her watch. "As soon as I finish here, I'm meeting him for dinner over at the Palisade." She looked up at him, curling the corners of her lips. "And you’re paying." She batted her eyes dramatically at him.

How do you bat your eyelids dramatically without coming off as deranged?

He climbed the stairs to his loft bedroom, peeling off his clothes and throwing them into the basket. His stiff cock bobbed when he walked to the double doors leading to the deck. He cracked the door open as he always did before bed, letting the clean air slip into the stuffy room. The contrasting coolness played around his overheated, tight body. His hard dick pulsed. Swinging the door open, he moved outside, hoping to quiet his mind and body. He stood in silence, listening to the night sounds in the inky darkness. The frogs singing, the wind sighing through the giant fir trees sounding like Henri whispering his name. Damn. The faint scent of her tickled his nose and then he remembered the kiss on his cheek. Reaching up, he touched the spot, feeling the slippery lip print she had left behind. Little pinpricks tingled over his skin and down his spine. He looked down. He was already stroking his steel length with feathered touches. He closed his eyes. "Oh God," he breathed as the breeze blew over him. On trembling legs, he backed up to the deck chair, sat and leaned back, still stroking. He rolled his head back over the edge, the cool breeze kissing away the beads of sweat gathering on his brow. He stroked his shaft, stretching his legs out before him, planting his feet on the wood, tightening his ass and abs as he perched on the edge. He stroked his beast, bringing himself to an orgasmic edge, then slowed his pace, hoping to stave off the inevitable end as Henri's image flickered through his vision. It snuck up on him so quickly. Always too quickly. The breeze calmed him, even as his movements brought him back until his body quaked with agony, causing the chair to squeak and rattle against the deck. His breathing became sharp with erratic grunts and groans. Finally, as if the wind had tired of tormenting him, it stopped and Cade fell to the point of no return. His body flexed, his breathing coming harder, sharper, heart pounding. His penis swelled with blissful pain. With a sharp cry, cum erupted in hot torrents, cascading over his fisted tip and fingers; he stroked until the last spasm faded. Breathless, he lay wilted, the fickle breeze streaming over him again, bringing enough peace and contentment that he finally felt tired. Obeying his body’s demand, he stood and went back inside, closing the door to a small crack again before cleaning himself up and sliding into his bed.

Oh boy, where do I even start with the above? And yes, everything is in one single paragraph!

He swatted her bottom and a shriek interrupted her throaty giggle. Quickly he rolled her and pressed deeper inside. She groaned, spreading her thighs as wide as they would go. He moved in an even ebb and flow, making Henri come easy and often, each with shrieking moans that swelled his primal pride until he could not stave off the effects any longer. As her peak rose one last time, he came with her, kissing her, loving her.

He lay over her, quiet, the only sound their ragged breathing.

Ms Love's writing is too simple, too laundry-list like, for my liking. The writing doesn't "flow" naturally. There are too much telling, too little description when it matters most, and some bizarre choice of phrases here and there. Reading the story is like going through a very dry list of things that do not interest me much. The pacing is problematic because there is no strong sense of build-up toward a climax. This story is too stilted and dry from start to finish.

To conclude, the first story in Hearts Afire: June is serviceable, but the second story is problematic because Ms Love's technique is too unpolished and dry for my liking. I'm afraid this one falls under my "think twice before recommending it" category.

Rating: 57


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